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All photos courtesy of SCDL

Qatar’s first World Cup stadium opened with a bang yesterday, wowing 40,000+ spectators with fireworks, cultural performances and a 20C pitch.

The venue’s launch comes five years before Qatar hosts the tournament and is seen by many as a huge step forward in 2022 preparations.

Last night’s match also saw Al Sadd clinch the Emir Cup after defeating Al Rayyan 2-1.

QNA

Qatar’s Emir at Khalifa International Stadium

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim awarded the winning team its trophy. And he also cut the ribbon to mark the inauguration of the stadium.

According to QNA, he “announced in the name of every Qatari and Arab citizen” that the venue is ready to host the 2022 World Cup.

Racing toward 2022

The game was also attended by several other sporting officials. These include FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Asian Football Confederation President Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa.

FIFA will have the final say over whether the stadiums Qatar prepares to meet World Cup specifications.

SCDL

Al Bayt stadium progress, May 2017

It still has not decided on the number of venues Qatar needs to host the tournament. But it is expected to be around eight.

Organizers have set a 2020 deadline for all of the under-construction stadiums, but Khalifa International opened six months late.

Meanwhile, designs for three of the upcoming venues have yet to be released.

Amid pressure to complete all venues on time, Qatar also continues to be dogged by rights abuse concerns at stadium sites.

Innovative stadium

But the stress of the balancing act was put aside for at least one night during Khalifa Stadium’s reopening.

The venue has been lauded for its cooling technology, sleek design and upcoming sports museum.

SCDL

Sensory room at Khalifa International Stadium

It even has a “sensory room” for those who who want to watch matches without getting anxious or overstimulated.

In a statement about Khalifa International’s launch, Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SCDL), said:

“The completion of our first stadium more than five years before the Qatar World Cup begins is an important milestone that reflects our determination to deliver a tournament the entire Arab world is proud to be a part of.

As we promised in our bid, our innovative stadiums offer an unrivaled experience to fans and players alike. I’m proud we can show these off to the world and welcome fans with the hospitality this World Cup will be remembered for.”

Thoughts?

Reem Saad / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Up to 1.3 million football fans are expected to turn out for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a senior official has said.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Nasser Al Khater, assistant secretary general of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SCDL), called the figure “a ceiling cap.”

It is higher than the 1 million fan estimate he previously mentioned in 2015.

SCDL

New Khalifa International Stadium

But this could be because World Cup organizers have since shifted the tournament to Qatar’s cooler winter months.

According to AFP, Al Khater added that for the first time, the World Cup will see more fans coming from the Middle East and Asia, as opposed to Europe and South America.

“I think first of all, football is changing, but I think also because of the geographical location of Qatar, I think we are going to see the majority of fans coming from the region, mainly Saudi Arabia,” as well as India and Russia, he said.

The official was speaking during a press tour of the renovated Khalifa International Stadium.

SCDL

New Khalifa International Stadium

The venue is the first in Qatar to become World Cup ready, and officially opens to the public today.

Fan zone safety

Tonight’s match between Al Said and Al Rayyan kicks off at 7pm. But the fan zone opens at 3:30pm and will include cultural performances and a food festival.

The opening ceremony of the Emir Cup final will begin at 6pm.

Ahead of the game, the Ministry of Interior has tweeted several pieces of advice for spectators, including:

  • Arrive early and be sure to head to the right gates when you’re ready to be seated;
  • Do not bring prohibited items such as fireworks, sharp tools, and glass, metal or water bottles; and
  • Do not carry banners with offensive language or wear clothing with photos or phrases “that undermine public modesty.”

First of its kind

Khalifa International Stadium was originally build in 1976 and was renovated 30 years later to host the Asian Games.

All photos courtesy of SCDL

It has undergone a second overhaul to meet FIFA’s standards for the World Cup.

New features include expanded capacity to hold up to 40,000 fans; the installation of cooling technology (which will come in handy this sweltering weekend); and the construction of a sports museum, among other things.

Are you going to the game tonight? Thoughts?

Katara/Twitter

Rendering of beach view of club

A luxury beach club and spa inspired by Scandinavian health and wellness principles of health is set to open at Katara Cultural Village this summer.

Situated at the north end of the cultural complex, Katara Beach Club’s facilities will include a 25m outdoor infinity pool, a private beach with cabanas, a sun deck and a gym.

It will be run by Stockholm-based Raison d’Etre, which has 120 spas in 60 countries, under the LivNordic brand.

Katara/Twitter

Rendering of front of club

The Katara club will be at the north end of the esplanade in the dome-topped building that has a flight of steps at the front.

The venue will primarily be a private members’ club, and joining comes with a hefty price tag. Membership costs QR23,000 a year for individuals or QR35,000 annually for families.

Katara Beach Club/Facebook

Relaxation area

Day passes for non-members will also be available, at QR300 per person on weekends or QR250 during the week, according to the club’s website.

While not yet officially open, potential members can visit the venue. A staffer said the goal is to have the club up and running by mid-July.

‘Nordic wellness’

The 4,600 square meter club site includes an outdoor pool overlooking the bay. There are also sunbathing areas and a 230m stretch of private beach with loungers and cabanas.

Inside, the complex has been designed to reflect “Nordic wellness traditions,” both in the natural materials used and range of treatments offered.

Katara Beach Club/Facebook

Salt rooms at Katara Beach Club

The facility is gender-segregated across two floors.

In addition to a cafe/juice bar, gym, class studios and 25m indoor pool, the spa facilities have a salt room, a snow room, a sauna and cold plunge pool.

A relaxation area “inspired by the Aurora Borealis (Northern lights)” also includes a fireplace.

Expansion

The beach club is one of several new developments scheduled to open in Katara this year.

Katara Plaza

A rendering of the planned Katara Plaza

Just behind it is the under-construction Katara Plaza – an open-air complex of shops including a branch of French department store Gallerie Lafayette.

There will also be a quirkily-designed children’s mall, sculpted as a gift with a large ribbon; an Evian spa and  “edutainment” features such as a robotics lab, as well as a large candy store and kids’ salon, according to the development’s website.

The shops were originally slated to launch last year. But they are now scheduled to begin opening in 2017, according to Katara’s website.

Thoughts?